Columbia University Opens El Diario’s Photo Archives to the Public

An image from 1970 featuring [El Diario columnist] Luisa Quintero, Marisol Malaret (Miss Universe 1970, the first Puerto Rican woman to win the pageant), Gov. Rockefeller and Herman Badillo.

For an entire century, El Diario has accompanied the New York City Latino community. Together, they have waged battles for equality and taken to the street to celebrate the wide-ranging expressions of Latino diversity and folklore. The publication, which has made known the names of many unsung heroes of immigrants, is ready to offer the community a ticket to the visual history of its ongoing work in the city.

The photographic archive of El Diario, nicknamed “The Champion of Hispanics,” is a sizable collection of more than 5,000 images now available to the public at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The collection is divided into two series, the first of which gathers images from 1970 to 2000 in alphabetical order. The second is organized in chronological order and by photographer name, and ranges from 1980 to 2006.

Journalist Javier E. Gómez, who worked in the archival project from its inception, explained that it is an invaluable collection containing the victories, nostalgia and joys of the Latino community. He added that the opening of this archive in association with Columbia University will allow users to review significant moments in the history of Latinos in the city.

Cuban singer Celia Cruz

“The initiative started out with a double objective in 2013, during the celebrations surrounding the centenary of the newspaper. Two of the reasons that motivated the creation of the archive were to offer a legacy to the community and to preserve thousands of photographs that capture moments that have undoubtedly marked the Latino experience in the city. I am proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of this project,” he said.

A protest in Upper Manahttan (Photo by Humberto Arellano)

Gómez said that users will have access to photographs depicting crucial figures from diverse fields, including politics, the arts and culture. He also pointed out a particular aspect of the collection that makes it stand out: the point of view from which the photographs were taken.

“Of all the pictures, the ones that moved me and that I remember the most are the ones from the September 11 tragedy. There are millions of photos of that attack, but the perspective with which these were taken makes them unique,” said Gómez, who worked in the paper’s editorial department for four years. The journalist remembered that he first came into contact with the archive in 1995 while working as an intern at the paper.

The archive contains exclusive photographs of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

Gómez also mentioned that, in its comprehensive portrayal of the community, the collection captures the interaction between Latinos and the police, as well as parades, marches on immigration, and a memorable moment dating back to the years when the internet and the use of electronic messaging emerged.

“Using these new, revolutionary methods, a group of students in the Bronx were able to connect electronically with a school in Spain. Their joy was such that they created a special greeting from the Bronx to Galicia and invited the press to a demonstration of the new invention in communicating and the process of connecting and sending an email through the internet. Of course, El Diario was there to check out what at the time was a great breakthrough,” he concluded.

For his part, Gabriel Dantur, CEO of El Diario’s publisher ImpreMedia, said he was glad that the colossal collection of images is being stored at Columbia University. “El Diario’s photographic archive is a treasure. We could not have come up with a better way to preserve it for future generations than to give it to Columbia University. The legacy of Latinos in New York City is safe at this institution,” said Dantur.

El Diario’s photographic archive is not physically available at Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. In order to have access to the pictures, the desired photos must be requested at least two days in advance to be processed and transferred to the library.

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